Double pricing is a marketing strategy commonly employed by grocery stores, but could be of theoretical use to any retailer. The basic concept is that one applies two prices to an item instead of one: a display price to tempt a customer by suggesting a bargain, and an actual price, which is the dollar amount that customer will pay for the item unless (s)he jumps through all sorts of hoops.

The general ploy used by grocery stores is what is commonly known as a "Club Card." IIRC, this idea was pioneered by Safeway, who began pricing all items with a large, glossy and gloriously reasonable 'display price' (enthusiastic barbequer in the produce section: "Hey, those Honeydews are only 99 cents a pound!") in addition to a tiny, obscured 'actual price' (later, in line at the checkout: "What! Card? No Card! 2.49 a pound?!"). They offered to issue consumers their very own card, if only they'd sign away their address and maybe a few bucks along with it. It'll save you a bundle in the long run! Few desire to fill out a specialized invitation for junk mail, but fewer are willing to return these delicious looking melons!

In addition, this double pricing system is usually only applied to select items, while the prices on most other items are raised. This idea is also the basis for irritating mail-in rebates and proof of purchase refunds.


From my place of residence in the Emerald City, there is one grocery store within 2 blocks. That grocery store is QFC. There is another within 6 blocks: another QFC. A full 15 blocks away, there is a Safeway. Needless to say, I shop at Quality Food Centers. They ware slightly pricier, but the deli workers are friendly, and their prices were wondrously straightforward. There was one, marked price, or there was a crossed-out price with a lower price next to it if the item was on sale. Until, that is, on one fateful Spring day of this year (which will live infamously and eternally in the hearts of more than one Capitol Hill resident) I went to locate some Salami, a bag of chips, and maybe some Afri-cola and found a wholesale nightmare instead. Once inside the door I was brutally accosted by the usually kind and good-smelling florist girl who wielded, instead of her favored Pink Gerber Daisies, a sheet of plastic, three sheets of paper, and a cheap ballpoint pen. I hate such pens. I successfully avoided her by forking around the opposite of the Easter display, but to my dismay was next confronted by the pastry chef, a grumpy clerk, and some old woman I suppose was a temporary hired hand, reluctantly arguing with a short-haired, orange-hued man in a leather vest.

"Double pricing," he shouted, "is exactly the reason I haven't shopped at Safeway for 5 years! It is false advertising, is what it is, and you are all crooks!"

Not quite approving of the man's bludgeoning of the innocent laborers or the English language, I filled out the necessary paper work (with my own pen) as soon as I discovered it was free, acquired my Salami, and left the orange man still arguing. I decided to forgo the other items after I noticed that, even with my precious club card advantage, I was going to have to pay 50 percent more for my chips and soda, which were non-advantage items.

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